Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Some six years ago, I read this book “Out are the Lights”, got it from my Brother’s Girlfriend, a crumpled 80’s paperback with yellow pages. Some B Grade horror, Boy..!! I loved that… creepy story line, no supernatural ghosts, just humans capable of doing grotesque crimes, scary sequences, lovable character, especially the female lead Connie…
Since then Laymon have been one of my favourite trash authors. Just like those Zombie and Slasher movies, the gory, splattering horror has its own charm. No class, no place in the literature, but once or twice every year I pay my homage to them, and for this Laymon is my source (At least until now).
Well coming to ‘The Cellar’, I got it from flipkart for some 550 bucks (with approx. 250 pages, it’s more than a Rs. 2/per page affair). When I was in college (read ‘unemployed’) pages per rupee used to be a significant factor before buying any book… leave the exceptions like Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, Gresham, Paulo Coelho etc. Coming to the point, right from the beginning it disappoints.
It opens with a beast house, a house notorious for some 11 murders by some beast, then this single mother running away from her Ex-husband, a convicted paedophile. She runs away and enters the town of the beast house, meets the new love of his life, the guy called Jud (short for Judgement), the visit to beast house, the new found love is hell bent on killing the beast, the Ex-Husband tortures, murders and rapes on his way to chase his wife (wondering why she decided to flee only on the day he’s freed… I mean she had 6 whole years for that, why the hell only on getting the news), anyways, the lover boy goes on beast house expedition, finds an old diary about a women and her pet beast, or the beast and her pet women… whatever… crap..  well the Ex-Husband comes in, fights the new found love, as usual the lover-boy wins, decides to put the Bad Guy in the beast house… ends up dead himself… and the lady and her daughter? Well the last page tells their fate… I won’t spoil it for anyone still interested..!!
After the plot the biggest setback are the characters, The Ex-Husband Roy, he kills without reason, and emerges more as a frustrated loser then a terrifying killer on the loose (Compared to the similar Husband on hunt in Stephen King’s “Rose Madder’ he’s too naive and fails in creating an impact), and The women Donna, She has no class (unlike Connie in ‘Out are the Lights’), I mean the first day in new town and she dates this guy, common, and her daughter, somewhat aged 12, She’s Slow, or we can say retard… no no “Special” will be better term… (Don’t want SRK’s son suing me now), Jud is umm… Stupid, I never got satisfied with his reasons to kill the beast. In all no one impresses, not on any front.
Before ordering the book, I read a few reviews on Amazon, and a lot of people have mentioned the climax as gory, fantastic, most unpredictable, blah blah… yeah it is ‘unpredictable’ but sorry I’m not impressed… I’ve expected better.
Conclusion: gross, crap, pathetic, No more Richard Laymon for the time being… at least not for a year… 🙂
My Rating: 1/5 

A New era of fantasy novels

Posted: April 16, 2011 in Books, Reviews

Generally I read a lot , and by a lot I mean a lot… and in that lot a certain good fraction belongs to the mainstream Fantasy Novels, be it Harry Potter, LOTR, Wheel of time or beowulf… Fantasy novels are like third on my “genre in order of priority list”, the first two being History and (Auto)biographies. I love literature, and certainly i do find an internal satisfaction with every new leap in the field. Anyways, i just wrapped up The Briar King and yes, it’s good and different, won’t write any review though :)but yeah one thing i can assure, the Fantasy world is changing, changing for the good.
The days when village boys and dark lords chase each other endlessly across a landscape may be at an end. There’s a new type of fantasy that’s taking the fantasy world by storm.

The Fantasy genre has historically been a very static one. We have the classics like E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros, arguably the prime contender for the work that laid the foundations of the fantasy archetypes, and Tolkien, who pretty much single handedly laid out the foundations of modern fantasy.

We’ve seen a variety of subgenres birthed the past few decades: urban fantasy, Celtic fantasy, romantic fantasy, gothic fantasy, etc. But by and large, the most popular fantasy has always been the fantasy that followed Tolkien’s example (epic fantasy). Yes, in some of the more obscure subgenres of fantasy, we’ve seen some interesting things being done. Writers like China Miéville (The Scar) and Neil Gaiman (American Gods) have been cloaking some fascinating ideas in the robes of fantasy, but the main vein of fantasy – epic fantasy – has remain unchanged for nearly fifty years.

However, in the past several years, In whatever I’ve read I’ve seen a new type of fantasy coming to the fore of the genre . This new Fantasy has been gaining swift momentum. This new style of Fantasy takes the old staples of Fantasy and remakes them into something more sophisticated. Strong, witty writing, dry humor, twisted plotting, and full of contrasting elements, this new style makes for some intelligent reading. In this new world of noir Fantasy, shades of grey are the new black and white. Gone are the hopefully optimistic village boys wielding magic swords on a quest to defeat the impossible; in their place, a gritty fantasy has arisen; a stark genre where the very conventions of what it means to be a hero are challenged: worlds are made of gray not black and white; heroes may be both a villain and savior; love is powerful, but ultimately ephemeral; heroes die and villains live.

Many fantasy readers are becoming more astute in their fantasy choices. Gone are the days where Terry Brooks and David Eddings topped the fantasy lists. The quality level demanded of a good Fantasy novel is now much higher. No longer satisfied with the dark lords versus farm boy conceit, readers are demanding fantasy novels that don’t follow the normal fantasy vein; they want something completely new.
There are several authors pioneering this new wave of fantasy: George Martin, Joe Abercrombie, R. Scott Bakker, Patrick Rothfuss, and Scott Lynch(yet to read him but have heard a lot…) to name a few.

Have we seen the end of farm boys and dark lords? Who knows, but right now, I’m enjoying the dramatic increase in the quality of fantasy writing today…

I won’t rate “The client”, I never rate Gresham, his novels are like – time pass reads, momentary pleasure, one or two night stands with well spun plots and a few real to life characters…. certainly no masterpiece.

The Client is, overall, a nice book, good page turner. Although it does drag in places and some of the “lawyer jargon” can get annoying, the characterization and plot are quite involving. It is a very suspenseful and unpredictable novel which kept me up till 4 am reading.
What make the book so good are the characters.
Mark Sway–an eleven year old, trailor-trash, kid is brilliant and foolish all at the same time which keeps the book moving well because every time he gets himself out of a situation, he always manages to get himself into another. He talks like he’s 45 and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. He also questions a lot about society and the legal system in such a childlike matter that it really makes you stop and think about your position on the topic and what you would tell an 11 year old kid.
Reggie Love is definitely the most complex character. After a painful divorce, attempted suicide, and commitment into various mental facilities, she begins a new life as a smart-talking, witty, clever, and absolutely crazy lawyer who you just have to love. They call it her “second life” and she lives it to its fullest. Only a 4 year lawyer and she’s able to outsmart the FBI. She cares so much, too much, about her “little clients” and although she denies it, is willing to risk her life for some of them. She’s a very strong character, but still very vulnerable, which makes for a great story.
( forgot the spelling :)), is the opposing, big-headed, stuck up, U.S. prosecuting attorney who is absolutely determined to win the case no matter the extremes. Completely engrossed in his job, he really helps display the infamous view of the lying, cheating, snake-like lawyers which we all hate so dearly, yet, Grisham also makes it seem like he is just trying to do his job.

The plot is pointless for me to elaborate :), is either full-blown action, or boring, drag along lawyer stuff and mob talk. Basically, at some parts you can’t put the book down and then at others you are just waiting in agony for something exciting to happen, but its well worth the wait. Overall–I’d only suggest it as a casual read, not great, not bad… just an interesting book for any given weekend…

P.S. for the time being I’m taking a break from reading, will be trying something new for some time – music, theatre, movies, ngo… ?? Maybe… but books are my most reliable and loyal girlfriends… we are just having a break… it’s not over, it will never be over… 🙂

And Then There Were None

Posted: January 7, 2011 in Books, Reviews

I’ve never been a huge Agatha Christie fan, but I’d always liked her books, most of the time i only read her Poirot novels. Hercule Poirot is the greatest fictional detective ever after Sherlock Holmes, whose character is unparalleled . But this book does not feature Poirot, which is why I wasn’t too enthusiastic for it, but after a friend of mine, Sundaram suggested it with a brief outlook of the plot i decided to give it a shot rightaway. As it turned out, this book is now on the list of my all-time favourite mysteries!

I suppose the plot is what draws most people to this book. There never has been a more elaborate mystery in the annals of fiction. Ten people gather on an island, supposedly invited by a host who isn’t present. We learn quite quickly that all the people are murderers — murderers that the law can’t touch. And the mysterious host who calls himself U. N. Owen (‘unknown’) plans to execute his guests.

The murders take place in accordance with a little nursery rhyme that is framed in each guest’s room. And as people begin to die one by one, and an extensive search reveals that there’s no one else on the island, it soon becomes clear that U. N. Owen is someone among the original party. The book soon turns into a psychological thriller as each guest becomes paranoid and suspicious of the others.

The last few chapters are nerve-wrecking and the Epilogue is shocking. Some of the contexts of the book are really nerve recking and worth the horror. “Definitely worth reading” is a huge understatement. Go read it!

“When the sea goes down, there will come from the mainland boats and men. And they will find ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Indian Island.”

The Girl who loved Tom Gordon

Posted: November 28, 2010 in Books, Reviews

Well written, but not upto Stephen King’s Standard

This book, from its cover design, its author’s reputation and its blurb at the back, seems completely to suggest a tale of seething terror.

However, I find that it is more a tale of jungle survival couched as a horror story. The horror is really very much in the background, while the reader (and protagonist) is mostly absorbed in the nitty-gritty of finding food, fighting bugs and avoiding the rocks when falling into a river.
It is admittedly a very charming book, especially in the characterization of 9-year old Trisha McFarland and the depiction of her struggles, her ever-deepening exhaustion and that fine line between comedy and tragedy; between hope and the abyss.
Yes there is a good build-up of fear about the “special thing” that lurks in the forest; stalking Trisha; but I found myself actually laughing when the terror should have climaxed. Laughing. Sure, you might choose to interpret that I am twisted, but I think the climax was more than a little funny.

While the writing style of King is great, as usual, the plot of this book is really monotonous because he spends too many pages detailing Trisha’s wanderings through the forest.

King could have involved the enemy more in the plot and spend more pages describing the hard moments that her family was going through instead of telling us so much about her misfortunes in the Appalachian Trail.
King also could have detailed the efforts of the search party to introduce more adventure and thrills to the book.
Overall I think this book is more suited to introduce teenagers to King’s books than for King’s fans craving the classic suspenseful terror stories of gore and blood.
Being a big Stephen King fan i’ll say its not worth the money for those of us used to his classic stories.

One of the most seductive of all ghost stories i’ve ever read, Turn of the Screw is not a tale for young people inured to Halloween or Tales from the Crypt. It is a sophisticated and subtle literary exercise in which the author creates a dense, suggestive, and highly ambiguous story, its suspense and horror generated primarily by what the author does NOT say and does not describe. Compelled to fill in the blanks from his/her own store of personal fears, the reader ultimately conjures up a more horrifying set of images and circumstances than anything an author could impose from without.

Written in 1898, this is superficially the tale of a governess who accepts the job of teaching two beautiful, young children whose uncle-guardian wants nothing to do with them. On a symbolic level, however, it is a study of the mores and prejudices of the times and, ultimately, of the nature of Evil. The governess fears that ghosts of the former governess Miss Jessel and her lover, valet Peter Quint, have corrupted the souls of little Flora and Miles and have won them to the side of Evil. The children deny any knowledge of ghosts, and, in fact, only the governess actually sees them. Were it not for the fact that the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, can identify them from the governess’s descriptions, one might be tempted to think that the governess is hallucinating.

The governess is certainly neurotic and repressed, but the existense of evil will always be debatable. The ending, which comes as a shock to the reader, is a sign that such struggles (whether psychological or paranormal) should never be underestimated.

As is always the case with James, the formal syntax, complex sentence structure, and elaborately constructed narrative are a pleasure to read for anyone who loves language, formality, and intricate psychological labyrinths.

Over the years there has been much speculation about the meaning of this story, especially the enigmatic ending. I know what I think, but I won’t give anything away here. Read The Turn of the Screw yourself and be prepared for a scary evening of surprises and perhaps even a sleepless night.

This is an immortal tale about hybrids, love and hate, justice, racism and the responsibilities of scientists.
Its fundamental question is: ‘Had I the right to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations? … Future ages might curse me as their past, whose selfishness had not hesitated to buy its own peace at the price, perhaps, of the existence of the whole human race.’

The ‘unhallowed arts’ of Frankenstein produce a ‘filthy mass that moved and talked’, but it is nevertheless a human being with normal human aspirations: ‘Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good, misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.’
But, Frankenstein is a ‘painted bird’: ‘Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all human kind sinned against me? I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.’
His reaction is : ‘If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear.’

Mary Shelley’s vision of mankind is far from rosy: ‘I heard of the division of property, of immense wealth and squalid poverty.’ ‘A man was considered, except in very rare circumstances, as a vagabond and a slave, doomed to waste his powers for the profits of the chosen few.’ ‘Was man yet so vicious and base? I could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow.’
Her world is one of resentment, racism and jealousy: ‘religion and wealth had been the cause of his condemnation.’
But, ‘how strange is that clinging love we have of life, even on the excess of misery.’

Frankenstein is the scion of the evil principle, the invention of a man-scientist and a ‘painted bird’, who is therefore not accepted by the rest of the human race. His reaction is revenge.

As Oscar Wilde said in ‘The Critic as Artist’: ‘For when a work is finished it has as it were, an independent life of its own, and may deliver a message far other than that which was put into its lips to say’.
Some texts become even more important and luminous with time, like this masterpiece.

A must read.